Month: February 2017

The Dark Side of the Brain

The Dark Side of the Brain

The origin of a story can be difficult for fiction writers to place. It’s not because we writers are overly secretive. The process in itself is a mysterious one. Big stories take a lot of working out. There’s multiple characters and plot lines. Novels are a process, but short stories are different. They can suddenly appear and when they do, it’s like love at first sight. Seconds before we didn’t know of them and then we writers are involved and not just involved….we are committed.
Sometimes the story tells itself. Sometimes it’s character first. A lot of the time, for me at least, its voice. I hear the story in my head. I wonder sometimes if I’ve heard the voice in real life someplace but don’t remember. Perhaps I was on the train and listening with the dark side of my brain. Is that where I heard 60 year-old Alapai for the first time? Did I hear the actual tonal quality of his voice, the resonance of it as I do now, inside my head, but only just, close enough to the right ear for me to think he may have been real? Did this ‘train’ voice rouse my subconscious archivist, who stored it away for those moments when I wonder what is next? This is a story I tell myself, a narrative of the narrative, so to speak.

So what of the story itself?

At present I’m working on Alapai’s Prophecy (a working title). I heard Alapai’s voice before I knew what the story was. He was an older man, talking to young people and he was telling a cautionary tale. So Alapai was always going to be the storyteller. He would narrate this tale, not me. He quickly became a school teacher in a classroom of young people who have been discounted and his story, is told so they may not be the ones to limit themselves.
So what of the story itself? I don’t know yet.
So we have Alapai and his audience. What was dealt me then was Chigozie Obioma’s use of prophecy in his novel, The Fishermen (I’ve reviewed this book, if you want to take a look). Obioma shows how prophecy can play a defining role in people’s lives and I found that idea fascinating.
Can believing in a prophecy bring the prophecy about? I think it can. It is possible we can become what we believe or fear ourselves to be. So Alapai’s tale will include a prophesy. It feels right somehow. I think it has enough intrigue to interest his students. I also feel he tells this same tale at the beginning of each year as a means to set an intention. I hear him say, “You may call me, Mr Henare or Sir. I will call you by your names as I learn them for that is who you are.” (I know he is deliberate now. Everything which comes out of his mouth is for his students’ benefit)

Still, the archivist comes to me

Hmmmm….The story is not done yet, but it feels good. I’m not needing to force it. Maybe it runs in a way which is true to that initial voice. I’ve had stories which have changed so much from our first meeting they lose their reason for being and we part ways. There is confusion then, equally weighted desires to know (a) what went wrong and (b) to flee the scene.
Still, the archivist comes to me. It could be because I listen to her that she continues to supply me with what is barely heard. As a journalist, snippets of news reports, conversations and texts would come to mind when features called for it and so I guess she was working for me then too. If I have any advice to give those who work with the imagination or wish to, it is to listen to your voices. They might be shy at first, but that won’t last.

Posted by Gabrielle Blondell in Creativity, Stories